Commentary

O.J. Howard earns The Opening invite

Several top talents from the Gulf Coast area shined in Mobile, Ala.

Updated: March 7, 2012, 11:17 AM ET
By Brian Stumpf

MOBILE, Ala. -- The 2012 Nike Football SPARQ Combine tour traveled along the Gulf Coast on Sunday after Saturday's event in Houston. Over 1,300 participants were tested and competed at Lipscomb Stadium in Mobile, Ala. One of the top prospects from the Yellowhammer State was on hand and secured the fourth invite to The Opening.

O'Terrius "O.J." Howard is a 6-foot-5 , 224-pound tight end who has already been named an all-state selection twice while starring for Autauga Academy (Prattville, Ala.). Howard made an early commitment to defending national champion Alabama way back in July. The ESPNU Watch List talent didn't hesitate to jump at an opportunity to compete Sunday and he certainly made the most of it.

Howard finished with the combine's top SPARQ Rating at 104.22, improving his rating from the same event a year prior by five points. Howard ran an impressive 4.63 40-yard dash, while also throwing the power ball 38.5 feet, jumping 33.2 inches in the vertical and clocking a 4.44 in the 20-yard shuttle.

Following his big day of testing, Howard was rewarded with the fourth invitation to the 2012 The Opening in early July.

"I came down here with that as my goal," Howard said of earning an invite to the elite Nike event this coming summer. "I'm looking forward to it, as it's a great opportunity to compete against the best."

"I've been working hard this offseason," Howard said, "flipping tires and light poles; all the stuff we do out in the country and it's good to see it pay off."


Class of 2013 Top Performer

O.J. Howard, TE, Autauga Academy (Prattville, Ala.)
Howard is regarded as an elite prospect at his position and for good reason. A physical freak who played all over the field this past fall for his high school team, Howard could end up at tight end at Alabama, but also could fit at outside linebacker or defensive end. The possibilities are endless with an athlete like Howard.


Class of 2013 Honorable Mention Performers


David Akintonde, DB, Catholic (Pensacola, Fla.)
Akintonde may never be a hotly-pursued recruit by SEC schools due to his size (5-foot-6 , 161-pounds), but the Pensacola Catholic standout is an explosive athlete and showed it Sunday. His 38.6-inch vertical jump was tops at the event and he also ran 4.56 in the 40 and 4.18 in the shuttle for a 98.64 SPARQ.

Jarren Johnson, WR, Jackson (Jackson, Ala.)
Johnson earned Class 4A honorable mention all-state honors a year ago while helping Jackson to a state title, catching 66 passes for 1,076 yards and 13 touchdowns. On Sunday he flashed that explosive athleticism, clocking a 4.67 40 and jumping 35 inches in the vertical on his way to an 89.79 SPARQ Rating. Troy and Arkansas State have offered.

TBD Editor
Scott Fink/ESPNHSJohn Marvin of Fort Walton Beach (Fla.) should gain more recognition on the recruiting scene after a strong showing at the Mobile Nike Combine.
John Marvin, DB, Fort Walton Beach (Fla.)
Marvin recently picked up his first offer from Troy and more could be on the way for the 6-foot-1, 188-pounder if his showing Sunday has anything to do with it. Marvin ran a 4.66 40, a 4.25 shuttle, threw the power ball 33 feet and posted a 36.3-inch vertical jump.

Tony Whitehead, WR, Paul Bryant (Cottondale, Ala.)
Whitehead is a big, strong wideout and displayed that on Sunday, measuring 6-foot-1 , 202-pounds and running 4.69 in the 40 while throwing the power ball 36.5 feet for an 85.50 SPARQ Rating. Mississippi State has offered Whitehead, who was a Class 5A All-State pick last fall after totaling 1,313 yards and 17 total touchdowns.

Deangelo Yancey, WR, Mays (Atlanta)
It's a loaded year in Georgia, so credit Yancey for traveling to Mobile to get some extra exposure and attention, a move that should pay off for the 6-foot-1, 200-pound wideout. Yancey finished with the event's sixth-best SPARQ Rating at 91.95, clocking a 4.59 40 and throwing the power ball 39.5 feet. He averaged over 20 yards a catch and scored seven times this past fall.


Top Underclass Performer

Delvin Purifoy ('14), LB, Catholic (Pensacola, Fla.)
Purifoy should be a heavily recruited athlete in the Class of '14 as a 6-foot-2, 212-pound linebacker with great speed (4.70 in the 40 on Sunday). He may have challenged for the event's top SPARQ Rating if not for a slip in the shuttle, as he also jumped 35.3 inches in the vertical and threw the power ball 35.5 feet for an 84.03 rating.

Other underclassmen who impressed
RB Kobe McCrary ('14), 5-11, 208, Chipley (Fla.)
ATH Alvin Moore ('14), 5-11.5, 176, Bassfield (Miss.)
QB Calvin Moore ('14), 5-11, 176, Bassfield (Miss.)
LB Tim Quickel ('14), 6-0.5, 184, Central (Little Rock, Ark.)
LB Tre Williams ('14), 6-1.5, 217, St. Paul's (Mobile, Ala.)

Below is a list of top five performers from each testing category. Stay tuned to ESPNHS.com and the Nike Football SPARQ Combine homepage the rest of the week for more coverage from the Mobile Nike Combine.

Mobile Nike Combine Top Fives

SPARQ Rating
1. O.J. Howard, TE, 6-5.5, 224, Autauga Academy (Prattville, Ala.) -- 104.22
2. David Akintonde, DB, 5-6.5, 161, Catholic (Pensacola, Fla.)-- 98.64
3. John Marvin, DB, 6-1, 188, Fort Walton Beach (Fort Walton Beach, Fla.) -- 96.72
4. Devaun Swafford, RB, 5-10, 175, Dobyns-Bennett (Kingsport, Tenn.) -- 93.00
5. Jacob Martinez, QB, 5-11.5, 176, Bozeman (Southport, Fla.) -- 92.76

40-yard dash
1. Caleb May, WR, 5-5.5, 134, Dora (Sumiton, Ala.) -- 4.51
2. Alvin Moore, LB, 5-11.5, 176, Bassfield (Miss.) -- 4.55
3. David Akintonde, DB, 5-6.5, 161, Catholic (Pensacola, Fla.) -- 4.56
4. Michael Calhoun, RB, 5-8.5, 168, Restoration (Centerpoint, Ala.) -- 4.56
5. Malik Foreman, WR, 5-10, 164, Dobyns-Bennett (Kingsport, Tenn.) -- 4.57
5. Justice Owens, WR, 5-8.5, 161, Alexandria (Alexandria, Ala.) -- 4.57
5. Kylen Towner, DB, 5-6.5, 167, St. Paul's (Mobile, Ala.) -- 4.57

20-yard shuttle
1. Jonathan McNair, WR, 5-5, 155, Oak Grove (Hattiesburg, Miss.) -- 4.03
2. Roylonzo Rhodes, DB, 5-8.5, 134, Davidson (Mobile, Ala.) -- 4.09
3. Cordero Brown, DB, 5-7.5, 174, Bogalusa (Ala.) -- 4.15
4. Jacob Martinez, QB, 5-11.5, 176, Bozeman (Southport, Fla.) -- 4.16
4. Hoang Nguyen, QB, 5-8, 157, Morgan City (Morgan City, La.) -- 4.16
4. Devaun Swafford, RB, 5-10, 175, Dobyns-Bennett (Kingsport, Tenn.) -- 4.16

Kneeling Power Ball toss
1. Gerald Sterling, DE, 6-3, 245, Aliceville (Ala.) -- 40.5 feet
2. Jared Holloway, DL, 6-0, 265, St. Paul's (Mobile, Ala.) -- 39.5 feet
2. Deangelo Yancey, WR, 6-1, 200, Mays (Atlanta) -- 39.5 feet
5. Tanner Crow, OL, 6-4.5, 274, Bay (Panama City, Fla.) -- 38.5 feet
5. Nicholas Haynes, OL, 6-2, 279, Niceville (Nicevile, Fla.) -- 38.5 feet
5. O.J. Howard, TE, 6-5.5, 224, Autauga Academy (Prattville, Ala.) -- 38.5 feet
5. Adam Ziepke, OL, 6-2.5, 290, South Terrebonne (Bourg, La.) -- 38.5 feet

Vertical Jump
1. Jay Worthy ('14), WR, 5-10.5, 178, John Essex (Demopolis, Ala.) -- 39.3 inches
2. David Akintonde, DB, 5-6.5, 161, Catholic (Pensacola, Fla.) -- 38.6 inches
3. RaHeem Pearison ('14), RB, 5-8.5, 162, Pike County (Troy, Ala.) -- 37.4 inches
4. Carlos Robinson, RB, 5-11.5, 197, Enterprise (Ala.) -- 37.3 inches
5. Berron Tyson, RB, 5-8, 164, Baker (Mobile, Ala.) -- 37.3 inches

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